MICHELIN’S SECRET TO SUCCESS
Qatar will see Motogp riders using the new control tyres in anger, so what do they need to do to win?
fter seven seasons of Bridgestone as official tyre brand, Motogp is switching to Michelin. At last November’s Valencia tests the company made a shaky, crashstrewn start to their five-year term as Motogp tyre supplier, but now riders and teams are getting up to speed with the new rubber.
During preseason testing at Sepang, Phillip Island and Qatar’s Losail circuit, many riders bettered their 2015 lap times by several tenths of a second. Michelin’s rear slick already offers significantly better performance than the Bridgestone rear. However, most riders are still struggling to get enough feel from the front, leaving them concerned about front-end crashes. As always, we will only know the full reality of the situation once the racing gets underway.
MCN sat down with the guys that know all about racing on both Michelins and Bridgestones for an exclusive insight in to the secrets of how they need to be ridden.
ACal’s fast cornering success
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow is already able to use 3mph more corner speed on the Michelins than he was with Bridgestone. Crew chief Christophe ‘Beefy’ Bourguignon explains what’s going on:
“Michelin have made a huge improvement with the front tyre and I’m confident we’ll keep getting better tyres. Already Cal can use maybe three miles an hour more corner speed than he could on Bridgestones, but he is maybe one or two mph down on corner entry, while exit speed is about the same as before.”
But Bourguignon says Cal got off to a difficult start when he first tried the new tyres: “At last November’s Valencia tests we struggled with feeling and grip on the front, especially when the rider released the front brake or opened the throttle. That was probably due to an imbalance in front-and-rear grip because the rear had really good grip and the front didn’t have enough.
“At Sepang we tested a new construction front that was a big improvement. They also gave us a new profile front, which increased the contact patch and that was another clear improvement. It made the bike feel a little heavier, but gave the rider more feel going in with the brake and more grip at maximum angle in fast corners.”
Development didn’t stop there with Michelin taking two different profiles to February’s Phillip Island test. There was a small improvement in performance but then at Qatar Bourguignon says it felt like the tyres took a backwards step. But he warns against drawing too many conclusions from performance on two very different tracks and predicts more changes ahead.
“I think Michelin may adapt the front compound or construction for the race because some riders had problems in the triple right [Turns 12/13/14]. They spend a lot of time on angle there, with a really high front temperature, because the tyre doesn’t have time to cool down between corners, so the rider feels good in the first and second corners and then the front overheats in the third.”
Bourguignon says the new tyres have forced a change in ridng style too. “With Bridgestones, if a rider wanted to do a fast lap he went in deeper on the front brake and with more lean angle, because the more he braked with a lot of angle the more he increased the contact patch, so he could decelerate better and turn better. You can’t ride like that with the Michelins. Instead you start braking in a straight line, then you release the front brake and carry more corner speed.
“Riders are having problems at the point where the bike needs to turn mid-corner. They feel the front go from loaded to unloaded, so the tyre is a little unpredictable.
“Michelin could easily improve lap times right now by using a softer, gripper rear, but they know that more rear grip will push the front more. Their idea is to create a better balance between front and rear grip.”
‘The more technical riders will have a bigger advantage’
“This year your position on the bike, the way you brake and the way you use the throttle will be very important. I think that the more technical riders will have the bigger advantage.
“The latest front tyres, especially the soft compound, are much better than the tyres we tried last November. There’s been a big 1949 Dunlop 1950 Pirelli 1951 Avon 1952 Avon 1953 Avon 1954 Avon 1955 Avon 1956 Avon 1957 Avon 1958 Avon 1959 Avon 1960 Avon 1961 Avon 1962 Avon 1963 Avon 1964 Dunlop 1965 Dunlop 1966 Dunlop 1967 Dunlop 1968 Dunlop 1969 Dunlop 1970 Dunlop 1971 Dunlop 1972 Dunlop 1973 Dunlop 1974 Michelin 1975 Dunlop 1976 Michelin 1977 Michelin 1978 Goodyear 1979 Goodyear 1980 Goodyear 1981 Michelin 1982 Michelin 1983 Michelin 1984 Dunlop 1985 Michelin 1986 Michelin 1987 Michelin 1988 Michelin 1989 Michelin 1990 Michelin 1991 Dunlop 1992 Michelin 1993 Michelin 1994 Michelin 1995 Michelin 1996 Michelin 1997 Michelin 1998 Michelin 1999 Michelin 2000 Michelin 2001 Michelin 2002 Michelin 2003 Michelin 2004 Michelin 2005 Michelin 2006 Michelin 2007 Bridgestone 2008 Bridgestone 2009 Bridgestone* 2010 Bridgestone* 2011 Bridgestone* 2012 Bridgestone* 2013 Bridgestone* 2014 Bridgestone* 2015 Bridgestone* * = control tyres
A major rule tweak for 2016 sees the introduction of unified electronics for all riders and teams. Gone are the days of all the factories working on their own sophisticated software for traction control, engine braking and anti-wheelie. Magneti Marelli now supplies the ECU and all the Dorna-approved software.
Ducati pioneered a double-wing on their Desmosedici last season to help prevent wheelies, and in doing so inspired other manufacturers to follow. For 2016 rules regarding wings have been introduced on safety grounds. Wings are prohibited from exceeding the width of the fairing, and concerns about sharp edges means each edge must be rounded and have a minimum radius of 2.5mm.
Practice and qualifying
Three 45-minute practice sessions are staged (two on Friday – FP1 and FP2, and one Saturday morning – FP3) and the fastest 10 riders on combined times at the end of those three sessions automatically advance into the 15-minute Qualifying Practice 2 (QP2). The other riders go into the 15-minute QP1 shootout where the top two advance into QP2 and those 12 riders then battle it out for positions on the first four rows of the grid. Those placed from third downwards in QP1 take places from 13th on the grid. If QP1 or QP2 or both are cancelled, grid positions are determined on combined times from practice.